The List of Possible Head Coaches


With the season finally over, it seems inevitable that Craig MacTavish will be dismissed or resign from his position as an NHL head coach. The question that most fans have been wondering for the last few weeks is who exactly will replace him.

With that in mind, I’ve taken the liberty of drawing up a list of 40 or so names who I’ve either seen mentioned in the context of this particular job, or discussed as candidates for NHL coaching jobs in the past. Because it’s such a long list, I’ve boiled every candidate down to a one-sentence summary and ranked him in one of three categories: short list, long list, shouldn’t be seriously considered.

If there are any names that you’d like to see included, let me know and I’ll be happy to add them.

Short List

Scott Arniel – The AHL Coach of the Year has never had a losing season.
Guy Carbonneau – Fired Canadiens’ head coach is used to coaching in a pressure cooker.
Kevin Constantine – Houston Aeros’ head coach has been successful everywhere – including in the NHL and has a reputation as something of a task master.
Peter Laviolette – Has won championships in the AHL and NHL; he’s not a favourite of mine but there’s no doubt that he’s been successful.
Jacques Lemaire – Minnesota’s head coach has decided he’s finished with the Wild, but I t remains to be seen if he’s finished with the NHL.
Don Lever – Canadiens’ assistant coach has been very successful in the AHL and has spent 15 seasons as an NHL assistant.
Paul MacLean – Mike Babcock’s long-time assistant has had NHL success but was also a first-rate minor league head coach for 8 years.
Tom Renney – Successful everywhere he’s coached (WHL, Intl., NHL), Tom Renney will land another NHL job and might be a nice change from MacTavish.
Brent Sutter – New Jersey’s head coach has been successful everywhere, and is supposedly home sick for Alberta.

Long List

Newell Brown – An assistant coach in Anaheim, Brown has tons of experience as an NHL assistant and was a decent AHL coach.
Marc Crawford – Crawford was a very good AHL coach and has a very good career record in the NHL.
Randy Cunneyworth – Currently an assistant in Atlanta, Cunneyworth was a decent AHL head coach for many years.
Willie Desjardins – Very successful WHL coach has won two championships.
Kevin Dineen – Has a very good track record as an AHL head coach.
Marc Habscheid – Has been very successful in the WHL.
Bob Hartley – Has had success at every level, including championships in the AHL and NHL.
Dale Hunter – Has been the driving force behind a very good London Knights squad for years, should get an NHL shot at some point.
Dave Farrish – A good AHL coach and phenomenal ECHL coach, Farrish has spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach in Anaheim.
Greg Gilbert – Has had a mixed track record in the AHL and didn’t see much success in Calgary.
Glen Hanlon – Bruce Boudreau’s predecessor in Washington has had a mixed track record in the AHL and had a good season as Jokerit’s head coach this year.
Don Hay – An incredibly successful junior coach, Hay has had mixed success in the professional ranks.
Charlie Huddy – Huddy’s had previous experience as a head coach (a very nice year in the ECHL) and been an NHL assistant coach for 10 seasons, and has had some success developing defensemen.
Dave King – Two-time NHL head coach has had success recently in Europe, and did a good job in both of his previous NHL stops.
Kevin Lowe – The Oilers’ President of Hockey Operations probably doesn’t want the job, but had a decent season in Edmonton before being promoted to G.M.
Ted Nolan – Has had success on the ice everywhere he’s coached, but has also alienated general managers.
Pat Quinn – A very successful career coach with two appearances in the Stanley Cup finals, at 66 Quinn isn’t a long-term solution.
Craig Ramsay – The long time assistant coach had one very good regular season in Philadelhpia but lost his job when the team couldn’t get out of the first round.
Todd Richards – A very successful AHL head coach, Richards is currently an assistant in San Jose.
Larry Robinson – He’s been to the finals twice and has a decent record in the NHL regular season.
Denis Savard – Was fired four games into the season despite a decent track record in Chicago.
Jim Scheonfeld – A very capable coach in both the NHL and AHL, it seems likely that he’s content to serve as an Assistant G.M. in New York.

Shouldn’t Be Seriously Considered

Kelly Buchberger – One season as an AHL head coach with a losing record and one season as an NHL assistant coach with a losing record does not inspire confidence.
Rob Daum – A good career coach in many leagues, Daum has yet to prove that he can be a consistently successful AHL coach.
Kelly Kisio – Calgary’s WHL coach, Kisio’s had teams with good records his entire career, but has never coached in the professional leagues.
Mike Kitchen – Career assistant was a failure as the St, Louis Blues’ head coach.
Mark Lamb – Former Oilers’ assistant has spent the past six seasons on Dave Tippett’s staff in Dallas, but has never been a head coach.
Mark Messier – Hiring an NHL head coach with no coaching experience seems like a bad decision.
Bill Moores – Moores has coached all over (including a very successful season in the WHL and time in Japan) and has a wealth of experience as an NHL assistant coach.
John Paddock – Paddock has been a good AHL coach for many years, but his teams have imploded in two separate NHL stints.
Craig Simpson – Simpson spent three seasons as the man in charge of Edmonton’s special teams, with mixed results – a great penalty kill and a poor powerplay.
Matt Thomas – Has had excellent results in the ECHL, sparking a turn around in Stockton, but should probably be tested in the AHL first.
John Torchetti – Blackhawks assistant coach has an inconsistent track record.
Geoff Ward – The former Roadrunners coach recently jumped to the NHL as one of Claude Julien’s assistants, but has a middling track record in junior and the minors.

  • Hippy

    @ #Swiss Oil fan:

    I hadn't considered Simpson. He's done a nice job internationally but it's tough to imagine that an NHL team will be willing to hand the reigns over to him without any North American coaching experience.

  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:

    You're right Jonathan. As a Canadian coach working successfully in Europe, it's quite difficult to enter the NHL-coaching circle. All you need is having a good network so I am looking forward to what kind of network Tambellini is albe to count on…If MacT is really going to resign I would suggest that the whole coaching staff should quit…house cleaning and a fresh start would be the right thing. Btw: It's even possible the other way: Dave Chambers and Pierre Page, both old NHL coaches, have recently been working in Switzerland but only with medicority…so who knows we maybe see MacT in Europe but I'm sure he's going to find another challenge in the NHL.

  • Hippy

    Hunter has already said he's not leaving London. Although he would a nice fit. He's coached Gags and Schremp, and unlike MacT, would definitely give Schremp the chance he deserves.

  • Hippy

    EMAC wrote:

    Although he would a nice fit. He’s coached Gags and Schremp, and unlike MacT, would definitely give Schremp the chance he deserves.

    A chance to finish second-worst on his AHL team in +/- (-26)? Or a chance to score 7 goals in an entire NHL season?

    No worries, Schremp's already gotten those chances. Besides, as I recall Hunter sat Schremp unceremoniously on more than one occasion – including in the playoffs.

  • Hippy

    I guess Gretzky is too well needed in Phoenix to consider parting with the org…….. but doesn't that seem almost too perfect? Gretzky is a God here, his word would be golden.. He has had a lot of experience at this point too and I'm sure hes about ready to come into his own. I know everyone hates the idea of keeping any boys or any busses around but the concept is almost romantic.

    Gretzky, MacT, Huddy and Buchberger/Moores/Daum/Messier for coaching staff next year.. ha.

  • Hippy

    True his +/- was horrible and he had a bad year, but Springfield was garbage. Chorney was a -29 and is supposed to be a shutdown d-man. And having watched him excel in junior it's hard to believe he didn't get more than 4 games this year. He would have definitely helped the powerplay and shootout. And there is no doubt he would have been better on the first line than Liam Reddox. It just seems that, like Penner and Nilson, MacT lost his patience and threw him under the bus. Maybe I just have a man crush on Schremp, like MacT does on Reddox, haha. Nonetheless, I just wish we could have seen what him and Hemmer could have done together. After all, he is a first round draft pick.

  • Hippy

    Anyone who has not played for the Oilers or involved in the organization is good enough for me,If they replace Mac T with Buchberger,Huddy or Moores we will be in worse shape than we are know.Their time and Mac T's has experied it is time they all pack it in.

  • Hippy

    EMAC wrote:

    Chorney was a -29 and is supposed to be a shutdown d-man.

    I'm not sure where you're getting that from. Chorney's a puck-moving defenseman; the biggest concern with him is his defensive game.

    And having watched him excel in junior it’s hard to believe he didn’t get more than 4 games this year. He would have definitely helped the powerplay and shootout. And there is no doubt he would have been better on the first line than Liam Reddox.

    He didn't even chalk up big points on his AHL powerplay, and I think there are enough shootout specialist already here.

    As for the comparison with Reddox, when Schremp can play tough opponents in the AHL, maybe there will be a comparison.

  • Hippy

    EMAC wrote:

    And having watched him excel in junior it’s hard to believe he didn’t get more than 4 games this year. He would have definitely helped the powerplay and shootout.

    The list of excellent junior players who never quite found what it takes to succeed in the pros is pretty long. I want Schremp to succeed, but just where would he have fit in on the roster this year?

    I wouldn't mind seeing Renney or Lever get a shot, if MacT really is on the way out. That said, I'm not holding my breath.

    If it turns out to be Crawford, no way I'm listening to the post-game press conference. He drives my wife insane too.

  • Hippy

    @ SkinnyD:
    Can't agree more. As someone watching from a few kilometers away, it was clear that over the last few years (hereforth shall be refered to the MacT years or the Dark Ages), the team departed from traditional 'Oilers Hockey.' The kind of hockey that is end to end with as many wild F*%K ups as amazing highlight reel goals. Last year when all the king's men fell to injury, MacT had no choice but to go to firewagon hockey because that's all he could do with the horses he had. This year – back to the systems based crap designed on a 'prevent defence' strategy. Ask yourself – which was more fun to watch?

    I actually think that the MacT system did more to screw up the games of Penner, Nilson, Horcoff, Moreau, Staois et al than the collective work ethic/bad contracts/baby fat yadayadayada did. In the few games these guys were allowed to skate freely, not only was it exciting, but they were in the games to the bitter end (e.g. Sharks last week). More important, the players looked like they even enjoyed the game.

    The message from Hemsky of a couple of weeks ago should be speaking volumes. Not so as to place Hemsky in the 'oh gawd, don't piss him off' column, but more along of 'hmmmm – seems to fit with what we've been seeing on the ice' category. Tight and stifling and boring!

    Should there actually be the wide-scale changes that everyone is forecasting, it would be great for the team to decide what style of play they want before they choose the coach. Renney will bring nothing more than the same. Lemaire? Let's hope not. Even when you win you have to be able to look yourself in the face. My knowledge of the wide world of coaching candidates is pretty thin, but if I were involved I'd be looking for some that:

    – likes a free flowing game
    – likes talented players over 'tries hard and doesn't screw up (too much)players (sorry Reddox, Peterson, and everyone else that ever wanted to wear #14)
    – believes that teams that are first to the puck win more than those that wait for the puck to come to them
    – and believes that Oilers Hockey is a style worth playing, even if it means the occassional crap the bed night is in your future


  • Hippy

    The next coach once MacT gets a promotion would be and should be Kevin Lowe. It would appear that Kevin signed most of these players so lets see what he can do with them. Any real man that signed these players should take control of the direct result and get behind the bench. Then, either no success or success after MacT and keep most of the same players as we can't move much due to salary cap and bad contracts. If Kevin is successful then we know he is a great man, if he fails, bye bye KLOWE

  • Hippy

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    @ SkinnyD:
    @ shepso:
    I may be in the minority here, but I’ll watch 82 games a year of defensive hockey if it means winning.

    I like to watch winning hockey as well. However, I cannot handle strickly defence first waiting for the other team to make a mistake hockey. I go watch a about 5-7 live games a year and I cannot stand a boring game. Expansion teams are gone now. I prefer a high intensity forecheck. I am not saying firewagon hockey. Just puck possetion and forechecking.

  • Hippy

    This isn't just Lowe's fault. MacT's more at fault. MacT has a final say on who he wants as players. He was part of the OS to both Vanek and Penner. He wanted Penner and now he throws him under the bus. MacT almost resigned unless he got more input on who he wants as players. I wonder if MacT is upset at Lowe because he didn't sign him Reasoner.

  • Hippy

    Did anybody read the article in the Calgary Sun last week saying the Flames would go after Brent Sutter if they lose in the first round? makes sense that he would go there first as his brother is the GM and it is just as close to Red Deer as Edmonton is. That being said, he would be my first pick.
    How about Brian Sutter? Looks like the Bentley Generals are going for the Allan cup again…

    How long is Hitchcock locked in for in Columbus? I think he would really kick this team in the ass and have a system that has proven to win more than once.

    Anyone give any thought to the idea of Sather coming back to be GM? I think he was pushed out by the group of 47 and Katz could get him back here if he tried…

  • Hippy

    esa tikkanen wrote:

    Anyone give any thought to the idea of Sather coming back to be GM?

    Yeah, maybe he could bring in Wade Redden and Chris Drury and Scott Gomez for outrageous sums of money….

    Wait, we don't want that?

    Carry on then.

  • Hippy

    Here's my list in no particular order:

    Scott Arniel
    Peter Laviolette
    Don Lever
    Paul MacLean
    Marc Crawford
    Randy Cunneyworth
    Willie Desjardins
    Kevin Dineen
    Marc Habscheid
    Dale Hunter
    Don Hay
    Pat Quinn
    Perry Pearn

    Tom Renney – IS TOO MUCH LIKE MACT


  • Hippy

    In reality, the Oilers are going to need someone who can develop players. They've got a bunch of guys who are on the cusp but need some more tweaking.

    Someone who has a track record of being able to make guys better. If it's an AHL coach with no NHL experience, I don't care what his AHL record is as long as he has churned out some pros who were ready to play in the NHL.

    I don't think going for a junior coach is the right move. Yes they work with young guys, but there's a difference between working with 18 year olds in a league of 16-18 year olds and working with 20 year olds in a league full of guys in their 20's and 30's.